The Speech

I stepped up to the mic, stared out to a crowd, hundreds of Ethiopian farmers. A shiver jolted down my spine. My breath quickened. My heart pounded. I took a deep breath. I looked down at the paper in my hand and saw letters I recognized but the words looked like alphabet soup. I spoke sounds and words that a year before were nothing more than gibberish to me. The crowd looking on, surprisingly, is smiling and nodding their heads.

At the end of the year there is a celebration for the closing of the school. I volunteered to give a speech in Afan Oromo. I figured it was the least I could do to honor the town that had given me so much love, compassion and their children to educate. At the time I didn’t think much of it. I have never had stage fright. I spoke on the radio. Then it hit me like a roundhouse kick to the face as I stepped up to the mic, complete with autotune, that I was really nervous. I stuttered as I gave the speech. I shaked as I held the mic. I kept my eyes on the paper, not looking at the audience. When I finished grins shined back at me, cheers from young and old rung the air. My heart raced but for a different reason. Happiness pulsed through my aorta unable to contain itself.

Here is my speech, first in English, then in Afan Oromo. My splendid counterpart Geneti helped me translate the speech, well, no, he mostly translated my speech. I hope it’s interesting to look at the side by side of Afan Oromo.

Hello, and thank you for coming! Welcome. My name is John Keller, I am an Afan Ormo teacher here at Lalo Secondary School. I’m joking! I am an English teacher. It has been a pleasure teaching your children. I want to thank you for welcoming me into this wonderful community. I have done my best to teach sections 9A and 9B. Sometimes I have been frustrated, sometimes angry, sometimes joyous, sometimes confused. I have learned as much from these students as they have learned from me. I have learned your culture celebrating weddings, holidays and funerals. Thank you for opening your homes and children to me. I have done my best to teach English to the students. My teaching is unconvential, even fun. I have tried to make the classroom welcoming and enjoyable just like you have made the community to me. Thank you very much!

Akkam fayya keessanii jecha baga nagaan dhuftan isiniin jedha. Ani John Keller jedhama. Mana Barumsa kanatti ani Barsiisaa Afan Oromooti. Qoosaan jira. ani barsiisaa Inglifaatii. Mana Barumsa kanatti argamee barsiisuu kootiin yeroo gammachu guddaa dabarseera. Hawaasa baayee bareedaa akkasii keesatti argamee akkan barsiisuuf na simachuu keessaniif baay’een isin galateeffadha. Barattoota kufaa 9ffa daree lama Ingiliffa barsiisuudhan gahee koo bahaan ture. Altokko abdii kutacha, yookiis gammadaa, altokko tokko aaraa yeroo biroo immoo jeeqamaa yeroo waggaa tokko dabarseera. Akkuma barattootni koo anarra baratan anis barattoota koo irraa waan baay’ee baradheera. Aadaa fuudhaa fi heerumaa, kabaja ayyaanaa fi sirna awwaalaa hawaasa iddo kanaa baradheera. Balbala naaf bantanii ijoollee keessan akkan barsiisuuf carra naaf laachu keessaniif baay’een isin galateeffadha. Haali baruu barsiisuu kootii daanga’aa kan hin taanee fi barattoota kan bashannansiisuu dha. Dareen barnoota kootii baay’ee kan nama hawwatu akka ta’uuf baay’ee tattaafachaan ture. Bara barnoota itti aanuttis mana barnootaa kanatti barsiisuf qophaa’een kira; isinis jabaadhaa ti ijoollee keessan barsiifadha. Waan nadhaggeeffattaniif galatooma!

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